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Runway rehabilitation moves closer to reality

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xIf federal money isn't delayed, construction may start in summer

By J.R. Williams -- jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Assuming several variables fall in the Winchester Regional Airport's favor, a runway rehabilitation project is likely to begin this summer.

Plans are complete to repair 4,500 feet of the 5,500-foot runway and install more sophisticated lighting at an estimated cost of $7.49 million. The Federal Aviation Administration will pick up most of the cost.

Airport Authority members discussed the project at length at a meeting Thursday night. Adam Switzer of Delta Airport Consultants, which prepared design plans, told the panel that construction bids are ready to be advertised next month.

The authority's preferred construction option would shut down the airport for 90 days to complete the work at once. Construction could begin as soon as June, assuming little to no procedural delays, or as late as August, Switzer said.

Large aircraft would be grounded for the duration. Small craft may be able to fly, but a request to use the airport's taxiway as a temporary runway for planes under 12,500 pounds is still pending with the FAA. Since lighting will be replaced, no traffic will be allowed at night.

Another two-phase construction option provided -- to keep half the runway open while the other half is rebuilt -- was out of favor with authority members. It comes at a higher estimated cost of $8.14 million and would take about 37 extra days to complete.

Light craft would be able to use the open half of the runway in that option, but larger planes would still not be able to fly.

"I've been flying here since the airport was grass, and I've always supported general aviation," said Paul Anderson, former chairman of the panel. "But this is a situation where I have to look at it from an economic standpoint."

Authority members voted to only request bids for the single-phase, 90-day construction option.

"I have faith that the cool heads will prevail and that the taxiway will be available to us," Larry Omps said.

The project could run into trouble if the federal government doesn't settle on a budget soon. On Thursday, Congress passed legislation that averts a government shutdown at least through April 8 as lawmakers debate spending cuts. However, FAA dollars are tied to longer-term legislation.

The airport's FAA contacts have said they still believe the money will be available in time.
"Assuming they get some sort of bill to keep the FAA going for a reasonable period of time," Switzer said, the FAA representative "feels pretty confident he's going to get the money to support the project."

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